GARDINER — City employees will get $1,000 each and department heads will get $2,000 as part of bonus payments acknowledging their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Gardiner City Council made the decision Wednesday night to designate about $70,000 from $597,000 federal American Rescue Plan Act funds that the city is receiving this year and next. The debate council members was not whether to give city staff the premium pay, but how to calculate what employees would receive and who should be included.

While the city’s Economic & Community Development Committee had developed a series of recommendations for using the federal relief money for the City Council to consider, it did not weigh in on employee compensation.

Mayor Patricia Hart said city officials didn’t think it would be fair to ask a working committee to consider that.

Elected officials briefly considered prorating payments depending on service and offering different rates for full-time and part-time employees.

“Some people aren’t going to like it, no matter what we do,” At Large City Councilor Tim Cusick said. “That’s just how it’s going to be. To me, anybody who works for the city of Gardiner, it’s a one-time shot of whatever the number is. Hand it out and move on.”


District 4 City Councilor Marc Rines suggested allowing city management to figure out how to distribute the amount the City Council would decide on.

“It’s a really complicated equation to throw out a random number we choose today,” Rines said. “I don’t feel like I have enough information.”

At Large Councilor Kathy Brown said she’s sure city employees were working very hard, and the purpose of the pay is to thank them, regardless of their level of responsibility or job duties.

“I don’t know what to do about part-time (workers); they may have been working more than part time,” Brown said.

At Large City Councilor Rusty Greenleaf pointed out that the Gardiner-area school district gave employees $250 gift cards.

“If you’re asking for amounts, it’s hard to decide,” Greenleaf said.


After considering other options, councilors agreed that employees on the city’s payroll as of Wednesday should get $1,000 each, and department heads should get $2,000, after Hart noted that department heads worked long hours and weekends during the pandemic.

Acting City Manager Anne Davis said Thursday that she’s working with the city’s Finance Department to issue checks next week. The premium pay will not affect how the rest of the funds are slated to be used.

The City Council has adopted the recommendations of the Economic and Community Development Committee.

The city’s highest priority will be investing $25,000 for remote meeting technology for the City Council’s meeting room and $25,000 for remote meeting technology for the Gardiner Public Library.

City officials will allocate $64,000 for CPR machines for the Gardiner Fire Department and $118,000 in radio communications upgrades, if it is not successful in securing ARPA funds through Kennebec County’s grant process.

And they plan to spend $30,000 on a city facility assessment.

City officials will also set aside funds for a two-tier grant program open to businesses and nonprofits in Gardiner. Qualifying organizations will be able to apply for grants from $1,000 to $10,000 and $10,000 to $25,000 for projects or programs that support priority issues in Gardiner, such as child care, affordable housing, food insecurity, business support and building community resilience.

Appended: This story has been corrected to remove erroneous mention that the Augusta school district has considered bonus payments to its employees. It was a source and reporting error. 

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